Two accomplices to a man sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting five Black Lives Matter protesters pleaded guilty Monday, while prosecutors say they will seek jail time for both.
Nathan Wayne Gustavsson, 23, of Hermantown, pleaded guilty to second-degree riot and aiding an offender, both felonies, and Joseph Martin Backman, 28, of Eagan pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor aiding an offender in connection with the Nov. 23, 2015, shooting.
The men were among a group that accompanied Allen "Lance" Scarsella that night to the Minneapolis Fourth Precinct station, where protesters had encamped decrying the death of Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed earlier that month during a scuffle with two officers.
Protesters were suspicious of Scarsella, who had made a video from an earlier visit to the precinct and sent several racist text messages before the shooting. After protesters surrounded the four, the group retreated and Scarsella unloaded his gun, firing eight shots and wounding five people. A jury found Scarsella guilty in February of first-degree assault.
One of the men Scarsella shot still has a bullet lodged in him after a doctor declared it too dangerous to remove.
The Hennepin County attorney's office says they will seek a jail sentence of six to eight months for Gustavsson, who was with Scarsella at the time of the shooting, along with up to 10 years of probation. They will ask for two years of probation and up to 90 days in jail for Backman, who went to the precinct that night but was not with them when Scarsella fired at the protesters. Both men are scheduled for sentencing July 19.
Gustavsson testified during Scarsella's trial, where he tried to defend his friend and said the two were in fear for their lives after being followed by protesters. But before the shooting, Gustavsson sent a text to Scarsella saying he knew "how to make big news or get [the protesters] to disperse."
During his testimony, Gustavsson boasted about how fast Scarsella drew his gun on the protesters and said the protesters were "mistaken" in their beliefs about the Jamar Clark shooting.
Gustavsson was also accused of trying to conceal and erase evidence of his involvement of the shooting after he was arrested and in jail, according to the criminal charges.
In a text he sent after the shooting, he wrote, "We're all guilty in this."
Gustavsson said in an interview afterward that his decision to testify came after his attorney, family and friends all told him not to. But he said he asked himself if he could live with himself if Scarsella was convicted and he did nothing. The answer was no.
"I can live with myself having done everything I could to help an innocent man," he said.
Backman texted others with him that night, instructing them "Do not talk with the cops," and said that he concealed or destroyed a cellphone he was using that night, according to the criminal charges. He was also accused of taking Scarsella from the shooting scene and helping him avoid detection.
The other man with the group that night, Daniel Macey, had all of the charges filed against him dropped by Judge Hilary Caligiuri.
Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626